2017 Kia K900

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz Senior Editor
June 21, 2017

Buying tip

The K900 Premium isn't available with automatic emergency braking and it's optional elsewhere.

With so little to set it apart, the Kia K900 blends into the background among big luxury sedans.

Part of Kia's push to move upmarket, the 2017 K900 full-size luxury sedan may look like something of an odd duck to those consumers who still associate the Korean brand with the cheap and not very cheerful economy cars that spearheaded its arrival into the United States more than 20 years ago.

But if you haven't been paying attention, Kia has earned its place as a mainstream brand with a lot of style. The K900, however, is a bit more of a head-scratcher than the rest of the brand's lineup. While there's no denying it is a quiet and comfortable car, its value equation has been eroded by sister brand Hyundai's new Genesis sub-division. As such, we've rated the K900 a 6.6 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2017, the K900 carries over with only some minor trim level feature shuffling. It's available in three configurations—V6 Premium, V6 Luxury, and V8 Luxury—and the price of entry is about $51,000. It offers interior space nearly on par with a full-size Mercedes-Benz S-Class with a price tag that slightly undercuts the brand's mid-size E-Class. 

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Kia K900 styling and performance

While Kia's smaller cars have crisp European lines, the big K900 comes across a little more anodyne. Last year, Kia tweaked the K900's grille and rear end to add a bit more chrome—which the brand seems toe equate with "upmarket." It's a pleasant, inoffensive design, but it's also anonymous and a little less than cohesive. 

Lined up with Kia's smaller Cadenza (which was just redesigned for 2017) and Optima sedans, only size really distinguishes the three cars. While that's good for building brand identity, it also means that a $22,000 Optima could be mistaken for Kia's flagship. That works better for Mercedes-Benz better than it does for Kia. Up against cars like the Volvo S90 and even the G80, the K900's design language is a little muddy and derivative. 

The K900's interior is likewise not really a standout, but it does boast clean, functional lines and terrific stretch-out space for five adults. 

Kia offers two engines in the K900, a 311-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 and a 420-hp 5.0-liter V-8. Both engines utilize an 8-speed automatic to power the rear wheels, but unlike most other big luxury sedans, all-wheel drive isn't offered as an option.

 Behind the wheel, it's heavy and pleasant enough to drive, but offers neither the bank-vault solidity of the largest Mercedes-Benz nor the sportiness of an Audi. The biggest Kia corners flat, but without demonstrating any zeal. 

Kia K900 comfort and features

The K900 is comfortable inside, with leather and wood trim and a feature list that's about par with its segment. That said, it lacks any single feature that's unique or sets it apart from other contenders, and it's not even an especially great value against the more modern Genesis G80. In the end, Kia’s new K900 luxury sedan is comfortable, quiet, predictable, and easy to understand. It's a decent opening effort to put "a stake in the ground," as one executive told us. As prices range from about $51,000 to more than $65,000, the K900 will likely find buyers willing to forego a prestige brand to obtain its decent value for the money. 

Kia says it plans to stay in the luxury segment permanently. Today, the K900 falls somewhere between a premium sedan and a genuine luxury car competing with the Germans. That’s how Lexus started, and we won’t count Kia out—but we wish it offered at least a few distinctive aspects or features.

On the safety front, the K900 hasn't been crash tested by the IIHS or the NHTSA, meaning we can't assign it a score. It does raise some eyebrows by forcing customers to pay extra for collision avoidance tech like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Just a couple of years ago when the K900 was launched, those features were typically optional—but today, most rivals include those features in their base configurations.

 Without a hybrid or diesel version to provide a fuel-efficient headliner. EPA ratings are about average for the segment, with the V-6 at 20 mpg combined at the V-8 at 18 mpg combined.

6

2017 Kia K900

Styling

The Kia K900 does little to stand out, although it has some classy touches.

Some buyers are in the market for something a little more incognito—and if that's the case, the Kia K900 makes a solid choice as it will simply slip under the radar.

We've awarded it an extra point above average for some design flair the automaker added last year, but generally it's a far less exciting luxury-grade sedan than anything else on the market. It comes in at a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

It's good for an automaker to show a degree of consistency across its lineup as it builds a brand's image better than even the best marketer can provide. To that end, the K900 is almost indistinguishable at first glance from the smaller Optima and Cadenza sedans. Yet what works on those two—at their considerably lower price points—comes across as a little downscale on the K900. 

Last year, K900 sedans gained new 18-inch alloy wheels (for the V-6 model) or 19-inch chrome wheels (on the V-8). The front grille was slightly revised, and the rear received different chrome trim, taillights, exhaust pipes, and a new bumper. Otherwise, the K900 remains a long car, with the classic proportions of a rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan, including a long hood, steeply raked windshield and rear window, a shorter and high trunk, and short overhangs.

Up front, quad-LED headlamps sweep back under a clear lens stretching out past Kia's signature Chrome concave grille. A slightly upswept lip on the trunk lid adds some style, but the overall look is derivative of other luxury brands. Squint and you'll see a lot of the early-2000s Lexus LS. 

Save for one crisp accent line on the flanks, the K900's forms are soft and rounded, especially at the front—while the latest German models mix both rounded and crisply lined designs. It all works fine on the K900, with only one truly dissonant exterior note: a chrome-trimmed “vent” on each front fender between the front door and wheelwell is so shallow that it's visibly fake. Kia seems to equate chrome with upmarket, and that's not always true. 

K900 interior

Inside, the K900 is stylish and reserved. The requisite soft-touch materials and glossy wood trim convey a fairly upscale look, but there's simply too much piano black plastic here. Cars like the Volvo S90 have moved the bar and the K900 comes across as feeling more like a big Cadenza than a proper luxury sedan. 

The K900's interior is easy to use and pleasantly straightforward, but it's not entirely convincing as a full luxury vehicle. it offers nothing different or even extravagant that can't be found in German sedans or various Lexus models. And a few surfaces are still hard plastic, in places passengers likely won’t touch. You might call it quiet luxury, for those who want substantial value for their premium-car dollar and don't feel the need to show off in a prestige brand.

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2017 Kia K900

Performance

Strong engines and a smooth ride quality help the K900 feel fairly upmarket to drive, but it's not sporty.

The K900 is Kia's first rear-wheel drive car, as well as its first to be powered by an optional V-8 engine. For a freshman effort, the K900 comes off feeling convincingly upscale and refined behind the wheel.

It's reminiscent of the way Lexus models used to be, before the brand abandoned its pursuit for perfection to fill BMW's shoes. We've awarded the K900 extra points for its good powertrains and its composed ride. It scores a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Two versions of the K900 are on offer, both of which use 8-speed automatic gearboxes to send power exclusively to the rear wheels. No all-wheel drive is offered, which will limit the K900's appeal in markets where the snow flies. Most luxury rivals sell more all-wheel drive that rear- or front- variants these days.

The humbler of the two engines is a 311-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6, while the range-topping model uses a 420-hp direct-injected 5.0-liter V-8 engine rated at 376 pound-feet of torque. Both engines and transmissions are essentially shared with the Genesis G80.

We've had limited time behind the V-6 model's wheel, but with the V-8 we noticed some lag in the shift and throttle response when the accelerator was floored. While the Jaguar XJ sedan uses the same 8-speed transmission, also paired to a V-8 engine, it did not exhibit the same symptoms. Under hard acceleration, the exhaust note rises perceptibly, but it produces a generic rumble rather than the distinctive note of a Jaguar or Maserati. Then again, this is one of the cheapest ways to get into a V-8 sedan, and for that we're happy.

The K900's suspension is well-damped, but tuned more toward the comfort end of the scale than for roadholding. To its credit, this big sedan corners flat, and the combination of stability and traction control kept it well-behaved even on lumpy and cracked country roads. It's possible to turn off the traction control, allowing the driver to spin the rear wheels—but why bother? 

Though its steering is precise, the K900's wheel delivers little road feel. Given its plush ride quality, we applaud Kia for not trying to impart an image of performance where it's not needed.

Kia offers Normal, Eco, and Sport drive-mode settings, which remap the transmission’s shift points and also change the steering heft. The Eco mode downgraded the performance without the wet-blanket effect such settings often induce on smaller cars, while the Sport setting produced a little more responsiveness from the powertrain without notably changing the car’s road feel. In the end, we left it in Normal mode for most of our test drive—as we expect all but a handful of buyers to do.

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7

2017 Kia K900

Comfort & Quality

There's plenty of room inside the K900, but its materials and design don't exactly speak to its price tag compared to rivals.

The Kia K900's larger-than-average dimensions help provide it with a roomy cabin that is well-outfitted, but it comes across feeling more like a dressed up non-premium car than a true luxury contender. 

It's not short on features, as we'll cover later, but the basic design is what looks and feels well under its price tag. Simply put, the K900 lacks the imaginative flair and close attention to details that have set, say, the Volvo S90 apart. We've awarded it extra points for its comfort, however, bringing it to a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The bright and airy cabin is easy to enter and exit, with a full-length tinted glass moonroof now standard. The front seats offer 12-way power adjustment for the driver (with 16-way optional) and eight-way power for the passenger, but an exceptionally tall front-seat passenger found that even with the front seat moved as far back as it could go, the glove-box lid hit his knees when opened. 

The rear seat is the K900's saving grace, with excellent room and good cushion comfort. The Luxury trim levels offer a VIP package with a power recliner for the rear seat, too.

All K900s come with leather seats where some rivals use leatherette upholstery as standard. Additionally, the K900's dashboard is swathed in genuine hide, a nice touch (albeit one that will require regular conditioning to keep looking beautiful). Higher-spec models are available with nappa leather, too. 

Certain interior materials and trim speak to "premium" and not "luxury," however. The dash is awash in piano black plastic that doesn't look or feel like the lacquered wood it imitates. It's also easily scratched. 

There's more: The sides of the instrument housing are made of plain black plastic rather than the matte silver found on German competitors. And a round analog clock in the center of the dash is particularly unfortunate, with molded plastic fins clearly visible through the clear plastic face. They’re little touches, but they’re important to buyers coming from other cars that cost $60,000 or more. 

These features may not stand out to buyers upgrading from a non-luxury mid-size sedan, but they'll become apparent if those consumers cross-shop the competition.

On the road, we found the K900 comfortable and quiet on most road surfaces. Kia has incorporated several different noise-reduction measures, from underbody trays to reduce air noise (and improve fuel efficiency) to laminated front and side window glass.

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2017 Kia K900

Safety

The K900 hasn't been crash tested and Kia makes buyers pay extra for some important safety tech.

Time flies when you're having fun. When the K900 was launched just a couple of years ago, when including adaptive cruise control and a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking on the options list was reason for praise.

Today, however, those features are standard on almost every K900 rival—but Kia says you'll have to pay extra for them. Additionally, the K900 lacks lane correction to steer the car back into its lane. That feature is now standard or optional on virtually every high-end luxury sedan, and it represents an odd omission by Kia.

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We can't actually assign the K900 a safety score since neither the independent IIHS nor federal testers have issued crash-test safety ratings for this big sedan. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
 
The K900 does come standard with the basics, of course: eight airbags, including seat-mounted units for all four outboard positions; blind spot monitors; a rearview camera; and rear cross traffic alert.
 
Luxury trim level models offer a surround view camera system, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking as an option. The V-8 Luxury model includes a lane departure warning system as standard. 
8

2017 Kia K900

Features

There's nothing lacking here, but the K900 is short on stand-out features.

Kia has consolidated the K900's lineup to just Premium and Luxury trim levels for 2017, which should make shopping for a K900 easy. However, given that luxury buyers tend to like to pile on the options, this relatively simple lineup may be just as much of a turn off as it is an attraction.

We've awarded the K900 points above average for its impressive standard feature count, its solid 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty package, and the brand's excellent infotainment system. That brings it to an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's missing, however, is that high degree of customizability—and, frankly, any truly stand-out features. 

At around $51,000, the V6 Premium model serves as the entry point to the K900 lineup. There are no options aside from paint color—and even then, Kia only lets buyers pick between white, silver, and black. The Premium includes 18-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights, a panoramic moonroof, a 9.2-inch infotainment system with navigation, 14 non-branded speakers, a power rear sunshade, leather trim, power driver's and front passenger's seats, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a leather-wrapped dashboard, and aluminum interior trim.

The Luxury trim level is optional with the V-6 and standard with the V-8. It brings to the table a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, nappa leather seating surfaces, wood interior trim, and a leather-and-wood steering wheel that's heated. The V-8 variant also includes 19-inch alloy wheels, a 12.3-inch screen in place of the instrument cluster, and LED headlights.

Optional on the Luxury models is the VIP Package that includes a driver’s seat with 16-way power adjustment, a power adjustable headrest, a lower cushion extender, individually reclining rear seats with multi-stage heating and cooling, power lumbar supports, and adjustable headrests. For 2017, that package also includes a heads-up display, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. 

The VIP package runs $5,000—meaning the cheapest K900 with automatic emergency braking is nearly $61,000. That's solidly into well-equipped Mercedes-Benz E300 territory. 

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5

2017 Kia K900

Fuel Economy

The K900's fuel economy ratings are par for big luxury sedans regardless of engine.

Without a hybrid or diesel variant on offer, the Kia K900's fuel economy story is pretty average. 

It's helped out by its 8-speed automatic gearbox, but the K900 comes in at a perfectly middling 5 out of 10 for its fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The more economical of the two versions is the one fitted with a 3.8-liter V-6 engine. It is rated at 17 mpg city, 26 highway, 20 combined. In its most luxurious form, the K900 with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine earns a combined rating of 15/23/18 mpg. 

Some competitors utilize turbocharged 4-cylinder engines to offer acceleration similar to the K900's V-6 engine but with fuel economy closer to (or even greater than) 30 mpg on the highway. 

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6.6
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 5
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